What Obama Doesn’t Get About Debates

He's eloquent and likable -- but he needs to learn a few things to win his next match with Romney.

Run on His Record

And that positive case is sitting there, waiting for Obama to make it. Foreclosures are at a five-year low. Unemployment is down to 7.8 percent. The stock market doubled from a March 2009 low of 6,626 to Friday’s close of 13,328. Obama successfully bailed out the American auto industry, repealed “Don’t ask, don’t tell” and passed universal health coverage legislation based on the plan Romney implemented as Massachusetts governor.

Yes, Obama has to own his failures, too — he’s still running trillion-dollar budget deficits — but running from his record clearly isn’t working. He should be running with it.

Keep His Eyes on the Prize

Plus, Obama has to remember that his goal isn’t winning the debate; it’s winning the election. If his campaign were the Harvard Debate Society, it’d be his job to rebut every last one of Romney’s points. But instead of counterpunching, Obama has to just accept that he’s going to hear some things he doesn’t like and then try to stay above the fray. His goal is re-election, not winning a debate trophy.

Remember He’s the President

But more than anything else, Obama needs to look in the mirror and realize that the young, smiling, hope-and-change guy from Honolulu isn’t there anymore. Standing in his place is the gray-haired leader of the free world — the guy whose job it is to send American soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines to fight, and sometimes die, for their country. Romney’s goal in life is to be that guy.

If Obama wants to earn another four years, he has two debates to remind voters why they made him that guy in the first place, and that it’s the guy he still wants to be.

David Swerdlick is a contributing editor to The Root and blogs for the New York Daily News’ “The Rumble.” Follow him on Twitter.